Executives share career advice at Get Smarter

SURG Restaurant Group co-owner and president Omar Shaikh speaks at the 2015 BizTimes Get Smarter Talent Development Conference.

Last updated on July 7th, 2019 at 02:42 pm

A lineup of some of the Milwaukee area’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs provided words of wisdom for career advancement at the annual BizTimes Milwaukee Get Smarter Talent Development Conference on Tuesday at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Click here to see a photo gallery from the event and click here to see videos of the speakers from the event, which was sponsored by the Marquette University College of Business Administration Graduate School of Management.

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver told the audience to be comfortable “in the skin you are in.” For young professionals, she said that means they should not apologize for being young.

“Don’t try to appear older,” she said. “You have fresh ideas.”

Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver speaks at the 2015 BizTimes Milwaukee Get Smarter Talent Development Conference.
Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver speaks at the 2015 BizTimes Milwaukee Get Smarter Talent Development Conference.

Young entrepreneurs should seize opportunities to take risks, said Matt Cordio, the founder of Startup Milwaukee, Skills Pipeline and The Commons.

“Start young and take risk when you are young,” he said.

However, being an entrepreneur is not necessarily as risky as it appears, Cordio said.

“I do view my role as being a risk manager,” he said.

Focus on customers, Cordio said.

“You have to create unstoppable momentum with partners and customers,” he said. A lot of entrepreneurs and obsessed with their product but, “without customers you don’t have a company.”

Marc Gorelick, chief operating officer of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, said that priority setting is one of the most important things that a leader does.

At times it is necessary to “just say no,” he said. “It’s hard to do. It’s very tempting to try to figure out how to squeeze one more thing in.”

Become irreplaceable, said Matt Rinka, principal of Rinka Chung Architecture.

“Find things (the company needs done) that others don’t do very well or aren’t interested in doing,” he said.

Rinka also advised young professionals to surround themselves with smart people.

“It makes your job easier and fuels your creativity,” he said.

Katie Perhach, the managing partner of the Milwaukee office for Quarles & Brady, said young professions should seek out mentors and sponsors.

“Mentors help you find your way within the company,” she said. “A sponsor is someone who tells others about you. I absolutely needed (her) mentors to show me how to practice law.”

Several of the speakers talk about the importance of maintaining work-life balance, even though some dislike that term.

“Make sure you take time for those personal retreats,” Driver said. “That’s really important so you can be energized and refreshed to lead.”

“Exercise, family and music are things I never apologize for making time for,” Gorelick said. “You have to figure out what are those core things.”

“Find time for you,” Perhach said. “You have got to put yourself higher on your priority list. Don’t lose your hobbies. It’s better for everyone if you get the mental breaks that you need.”

Networking skills are critical to develop, some speakers said. That includes the art of small talk, Perhach said.

“Companies want to hire and promote people they get along with,” she said.

Omar Shaikh, co-owner and president of SURG Restaurant Group, said he does not like the term “networking,” but values the connections he forms with people to help build his business.

SURG Restaurant Group co-owner and president Omar Shaikh speaks at the 2015 BizTimes Get Smarter Talent Development Conference.
SURG Restaurant Group co-owner and president Omar Shaikh speaks at the 2015 BizTimes Get Smarter Talent Development Conference.

“It’s a constant effort to meet somebody,” he said. “I really do take every opportunity to meet and connect with people on every level.”

Don’t stay long in an organization where you do not fit in with the culture, said James Phelps, principal of JCP Construction.

“It doesn’t take long, six months tops, to see if you are a good fit in an organization and its culture,” he said. “If it’s not (a good fit), it’s time to move on, otherwise you are wasting your time and their time.”

Young professionals should be willing to ask questions and managers shouldn’t get irritated with employees that ask a lot of questions, Phelps said.

“As cheesy as it sounds, there is no such thing as a bad question,” he said.

The Get Smarter Conference also featured a “Rising Stars” panel discussion, led by FUEL Milwaukee executive director Corry Joe Biddle.

The Get Smarter Talent Development Conference included a panel of "rising stars" future business leaders in metro Milwaukee.
The Get Smarter Talent Development Conference included a panel of “rising stars” future business leaders in metro Milwaukee.

That panel included Dustin Godsey, Milwaukee Bucks vice president of marketing; Amanda Kerkemeyer, GE executive audit manager; Heather Turner Loth, Eppstein Uhen Architects project development; and Dustin Zick, Cramer-Krasselt public relations senior manager and social media specialist.

 

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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